...full title -
Tearing Down the Walls of Sound. The Rise and Fall of Phil Spector
What a treat you all missed at Clapham Books last night. Personally, I'm not a big reader of biographies of pop stars as they're usually just functionally readable blow-by-blow accounts of a musician's life for fans of minutia. But, as Charlie said in his introduction, it's rare to come across a biographer who can both get inside his subject completely, and find new ways of vividly describing that most intangible of all things; the music they created. Not only does Mick Brown seem to achieve both these ends - at least as far as I could tell from several extracts he read aloud to us - but he also knows how to tell a story in a lucid and compelling manner.
But having said that, obviously Spector is more of a gift to the biographer than, say, Roland Keating. However, the background story of how Brown was the first journalist to interview Spector in 25 years (getting to spend 5 discombobulating hours with him in his LA castle) only to have the news of Lana Clarkson's murder arrive just days after he got back to the UK, clearly made the writing of this biography his manifest destiny.
Another thing that I should mention (to encourage you all to put this appetisingly hefty volume of your Christmas lists) is that despite Spector's desperate and dark core, the man is a great story teller and an incisive wit. And, wherever possible, Brown just lets Spector's voice tell his often crazed side of things in his own unmistakable voice. For example there's this throwaway dismissal of rap music: "Like the 'c' got left off at the printers."
Brown also captures Spector's manic incredulity at a world which fails to grasp his unquestionable genius.There's the occasion when Spector playing the finished master of the most broadcast single of all time, 'You've Lost that Loving Feeling' to various sceptical pairs of ears, and he was variously told, it's too long, it's got no backbeat, or it's simply at the wrong speed. But the one line that most informed me that this was a rock biography I was actually going to enjoy, rather than just mindlessly absorb, was where Brown describes this dark but fiery epic as 'a masterpiece of chiaroscuro.'
Oh, and Chris Salewics was at the reading too. In my usual tactless manner my mouth was in gear before my brain had proof-read what I was going to say, and I informed him that 'Redemption Song - The Definitive Biography of Joe Strummer' had been waiting on my bookshelf to be read since last Christmas. I hastily explained that I was still looking forward to reading the book, and that sometimes you just have to wait for the right moment for reading this kind of book - such as when Clash and Mescaleros CDs have found their way back onto the stereo. But he just laughed and said that all he cared about was the fact that I'd got the book and so he'd got his money.